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Governor Vetoes 4 AIDS Bills, OKs Stiffer Penalty for Shooters

Times Staff Writer

Gov. George Deukmejian, nearing the deadline for completing work on legislation, vetoed dozens of bills Thursday, including four aimed at protecting hospital and other public employees who might be exposed to AIDS.

Deukmejian, who started the day facing a Friday midnight deadline with about 300 bills still on his desk, also signed numerous bills into law.

One of the bills getting the governor’s approval will increase the criminal penalty for so-called “drive-by shooters” who fire guns from moving cars. Another requires that restrooms be provided in all new gas stations opening along major highways after Jan. 1, 1990.

Deukmejian’s office announced that he vetoed more bills than he signed Thursday.

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In addition to the AIDS bills, Deukmejian vetoed a bill that would have required that 16-year-olds be in school and on their way toward graduation in order to qualify for a driver’s license, and another that would have extended the life of special reading and other education programs.

One of the AIDS bills would have required the state’s Department of Industrial Relations to adopt standards to protect health workers who thought they were being exposed to acquired immune deficiency syndrome.

Another would have directed the Department of Health Services to initiate an educational program for all licensed and unlicensed health-care workers and give them training on how to prevent the transmission of AIDS.

Deukmejian said he vetoed the Industrial Relations bill because California’s Division of Occupational Safety and Health, known as Cal/OSHA, had adopted federal OSHA standards and the legislation was unnecessary.

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The governor said the second bill duplicated “existing programs.”

Both bills, carried by Assemblyman Richard E. Floyd (D-Hawthorne), were sponsored by the 25,000-member California Nurses Assn. and won the support of numerous public employee labor organizations.

Supporters of the legislation strongly disagreed that Cal/OSHA was capable of enforcing protections required by the federal agency. They pointed out that Deukmejian has cut so much from the Cal/OSHA budget in recent years that it basically has no enforcement arm. At issue are such things as how contaminated needles are disposed of by hospitals or whether nurses can be required to work without gloves in places where they might be exposed to AIDS.

Irene Agnos, director of governmental relations for the nurses’ association, said, “The problem is public employees just aren’t getting the same protection that private workers get. Right now, the public sector, including all of the University of California hospitals, are without standards. Cal/OSHA has virtually no staff for enforcement.”

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One of the other AIDS bills vetoed by the governor would have given police and firefighters extra financial benefits if they contract the deadly disease by establishing in the law a presumption that it was a work-related injury.

Deukmejian, in the veto message, said wording of the law would have made it difficult for public agencies to prove that the employees got AIDS either through sexual conduct or intravenous drug use.

Deukmejian argued, “There is nothing in current law that prevents an employee from presenting evidence that he or she contracted AIDS in a work-related incident.”

The other AIDS bill, drafted by state Sen. Gary K. Hart (D-Santa Barbara), called for better dissemination of information to the public and government agencies. Deukmejian said state agencies have already established central data systems.

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Deukmejian did sign legislation authorizing the Department of Health Services to go ahead with a program to establish up to 20 pilot projects to provide housing and food for homeless people who have AIDS or who have been infected with the AIDS virus.

In other actions, Deukmejian:

- Signed legislation by Assemblywoman Maxine Waters (D-Los Angeles) that adds an extra three years to the prison sentence of someone convicted of a drive-by shooting.

- Signed legislation requiring that gas stations provide restrooms for customers if the stations are within 660 feet of a highway. The bill stemmed from motorists complaining about being stranded along the road without access to toilets.

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- Vetoed a bill by Hart designed to encourage teen-agers to stay in school by requiring that they be enrolled and in good standing before being issued a driver’s license.

“I agree the state should make every effort to encourage students to attend and graduate from high school. However, I am not aware of any evidence that the denial of a driver’s license will result in changing a student’s mind about dropping out of school,” the governor said.

- Vetoed legislation extending the legal life of six programs, including the Gifted and Talented Education program, that have been caught in the middle of a long-running fight between Deukmejian and the Democrat-controlled Legislature. The programs, tied together in a package by the Legislature, will continue to receive state funds, but the veto means that local school districts will have more flexibility in choosing between one or more of them.


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